2018-04-18 14.03.19

Games for a laugh

Board games can be a serious business. Try circulating at an event, trying to capture photos of people having a great time playing games and you’ll soon see: the furrowed brows; the intense examination of a hand of cards; the co-operative players desperately trying to escape The Curse of The Temple. It’s all fun and games till someone loses a die.
In this week’s blog I want to look at the lighter side of board gaming, focusing on 6 games that will make you laugh.
The Cheese Touch
How well do you really know these people – your family, friends and fellow gamers? Thanks to the Cheese Touch, you are about to find out. As you move around the board you have to complete tasks like- miming an action using the adverb on the card (e.g. lazily), the player whose turn it is has 5 chances to get the correct answer; there’s Yes or No – choose a player who you think will give the same answer as you; Who Said What? – match responses with players or Great Minds Think Alike – reveal identical answers to win. Succeed in these tasks and you will be rewarded with movement towards the end of the board… but fail and you will have The Cheese Touch… To win the game you must get round the board first and be free of the cheese touch!
Even if you never read the books, didn’t watch the film or don’t believe that cheese is inherently comical you will still be doing your level best to avoid the cheese touch and laughing as you do!
Cobra Paw
The first thing you need to know about Cobra Paw is that the tiles are called Clawfuku – I’ll let you work on the pronunciation yourself. Roll the dice and identify the clawfuku which matches the symbols shown on the dice. Grab it quick with your stealthy ninja skills, before anyone else. First to 6 (or 7 in a two player game) wins!
But be careful- just because a clawfuku is in front of you does not mean it is yours. At every roll of the dice, they are all up for grabs. You need ‘eyes in your arse’ to win this game!
Despite your temptation to pronounce clawfuku in an aggressive manner – the divit of diplomacy will avert any unpleasantness. In the case of a close call, whichever player has their claw in the divit is the winner of that particular clawfuku.
The game pieces are chunky and colourful, delightfully tactile and the game itself is quick to learn and play and endlessly entertaining.
A quick fire game – like a powered up version of snap. Match the symbols then call out an example from the category on the other person’s card to win the pair. Like so many classic games, it sounds so easy. Then as it gathers speed you realise that you don’t know any animals at all and the only TV shows you remember went off air in the 1970s. Or, worse still the only word you can think of is flatworm and you’re not even sure what that is.
Wild cards add more mayhem by allowing you to match on two symbols. So in the one pictured you could have a match with 2 crosses, 2 zigzags or 1 cross and 1 zigzag. Frankly after ‘a’ glass of wine that can be a challenge too far – if in doubt shout flatworm and hope for the best.
Animal Ailments
A mime in two acts. Animal Ailments demands that you successfully communicate which animal you are. Then through the medium of interpretive dance, charades or simply with the power of your mind – communicate your ailment. You gain cards for miming excellence and for understanding other people’s interesting interpretations! Can you recognise a hungry tiger, a camera shy kangaroo or a snail who is (understandably) scared of birds?
The cards also have power ups, giveaways, extra turns and other abilities which make the game more chaotic and entertaining. And, of course there’s a timer – everything’s funnier when you are under pressure!
A thoroughly entertaining and ridiculous game. We love it!
Quirk and Quirk Legends
Quirk is like Happy Families (if the families were on crack). To win quirks (sets of three cards) you must act out or make the sound of the quirk you are trying to complete. Quirk Legends has the added twist of allowing you to count up how many goodies and baddies you end up with! Both games include tactic and skip cards which allow you to complete actions like – stealing quirks, stealing cards or blocking others’ actions.
The illustrations are lovely too. I particularly like those in Quirk legends. I’ve got a soft spot for the T-Rex though – I’m not convinced they’re a baddy!
It’s obviously great for kids as it is easy to learn and it appeals to their sense of silliness. Recapturing that silliness makes for an entertaining game for adults too. I went for years without rolling down grassy hills and when I had children I rediscovered the joy of it. It’s something I won’t have the chutzpah to do for much longer as I risk embarrassing myself and the children. This game is perfect for giving you permission to be as daft as you like – children or no children.
A thoroughly enjoyable game. In this instance the lack of timer makes it more entertaining as you force your opponent to repeatedly impersonate a wizard whilst sincerely claiming you have no idea which card she’s after. Make ’em earn their quirks!
A word game that has endless possibilities for creative hilarity.
Read more about it in my recent review of it here.
So if you are game for a laugh and you want to challenge your pelvic floor as well as your brain give one of these a go!

Come along to a Cards or Die event and try them out.
2017-10-06 21.41.50 (1)_edited

Don your Deerstalker! A guide to detective games.

Whether you prefer to drink real ale, drive classic cars and shout at Junior Detectives, wear a deerstalker and have sharp cheekbones, or exercise your little grey cells (and if you didn’t read that in a Belgian accent you’ve let yourself down) – you will certainly enjoy these detective games. In our house we love a bit of intense sleuthing and here are some of our choices…
Classics are classics for a reason and Cluedo is no exception. It is yet another Waddingtons Leeds success story. But, unlike Monopoly and despite the macabre theme, it doesn’t inspire actual murder. Internationally successful to this day, the game is widely known as Clue abraod. A reissue of the game in 2008 saw it attempt to align itself with modern culture – you can find out more in Richard Alleyne’s article here. I don’t want to get involved with first names and modern weaponry though, Cluedo for me is about embracing the theme, having a warm milky drink before bed while I peruse and ponder the clues. I still love our vintage version best.
There are three female characters to choose from which is a boon. Although since my daughter adopted this as one of her favourites, I never get to be Miss Scarlet anymore. I am often relegated to the buxom and comforting steadiness of Mrs White and spend the game internally creating a salacious back story – she wasn’t always this matronly you know!
At the time when Cluedo first appeared in the mid-forties it was an important alternative to the roll and move games which were so prevalent. Even as a child in the late 70s / early 80s I was not so spoilt for choice as we are now. Cluedo offered a relief from the day long unpleasantness of Monopoly or the inordinately (and unjustifiably) long games of Frustration and Ludo. I enjoyed it then and now because it uses your brain. Being able to accurately deduce who commited the murder, where and with what implement is still very satisfying. Even when you don’t win, you are invested in the outcome – often the reveal is followed by a comparing of notes and discussion of how close or far off other players were. It is that which gives Cluedo continuing appeal.
Cluedo Card Game
Cluedo but portable? Yes please. The game works well as a card game and sticks reasonably closely to the original. In this version you must use your deduction skills to ascertain the Suspect, the Destination and the Vehicle they are making their getaway in. Action cards determine what players may do on their turns. The addition of destination markers which are all visible help to maintain the mechanic of moving to a room to make your accusation.
There is also a ‘one against all’ variation. One player assumes the role of the fugitive and must form an escape plan while the detectives must thwart the villains plans before they can make good their escape and time runs out.
I love the artwork on the cards, especially the old fashioned modes of escape like the seaplane! All of the cards – photographs and illustrations – have been given a sepia, aged tone. This makes some of the seemingly random destinations all the more enjoyable – Miss Scarlet might have hopped on her hot air balloon bound for Loch Ness, Alton Towers or perhaps even Blackpool Tower! It is a fun variant of Cluedo and easy to take to the pub, so everyone’s a winner!
221B Baker Street
221B Baker Street has 75 different cases to solve (if you buy the most recent version). Cases vary in complexity as well as making different demands of the detectives; for some crimes you need to uncover the motive, killer and weapon while others ask for cause of death, how the victim died or other more obscure details of the case. You start off at Baker Street and then make your way round the board to different locations, collecting and solving clues as you go. You can only read the clue once and there is a time limit of 30 seconds and may not refer back to it – so the notes you take are vital!
When you believe you have solved the mystery you return to 221B Baker street and announce your theory. If you are correct you are victorious and the game ends. Fail and you are suspended from duty – effective immediately – you do not even get to share your notes with fellow officers.
You are able to seal off locations to hide valuable clues or mislead other players. These are fairly easy to unlock and although you are only allowed one key and one Scotland Yard card to seal and unlock locations, they are easy to replace. It is not a feature that we often use when we play, because of the “actual murder” thing (see above!).
While it can seem slow to start, the game soon picks up pace. I enjoy the problem solving and deduction as well as the opportunity to take opium and play the violin erratically.
We enjoy it despite the fact the children find some of the clues too obscure. We usually start out individually and end up in some sort of co-operative game where we work together to solve the crime, or we visit different locations and swap clues. I’m basically quite conflict averse, so we don’t enforce the 30 second rule, or use a much longer time. Not only would it make the game more difficult, but I can’t imagine a scenario in which one of my children would not attempt to kill the other with the clue book rolled up around a lead pipe, in the dining room, when their 30 seconds was up and they ‘HAVEN’T EVEN READ IT ONCE’. I’m a strong believer in house rules and am not a stickler for the printed ones. Games are about having fun and as long as all rules are pre-agreed by the group so that everyone can access and enjoy the game that’s what matters most.
Mr Jack
Mr Jack is a great little 2 player asymmetric detective game. The Inspector employs Holmes, Watson and Toby the dog to track down Jack the Ripper. It is short on diversity of characters but it has many plus points. We took it on holiday with us and played it a lot.
Inspector Morse
Unlike 221B there are only 9 variations to play here (3 cases with 3 question cards each). So it has a clearly limited life on your shelves. Lucky for you I bought it so you don’t have to!
You begin by reading the case book but make careful notes as anytime you want to look at it again it will cost you 10 points (each player starts with 500 promotion points). The object of the game is to move around the board solving clues so that you are able to correctly answer the six questions from the question card. Locations contain clue cards which once read are replaced at the bottom of the pile and if you are unlucky enough to draw the same clue twice that’s just tough – you don’t get to swap it for another!
As you move around the board you also encounter difficulties and positive adding a (possibly unnecessary) element of luck to the game. The square may cause you to lose or gain promotion points at random; move to certain locations or squares or move other players. You can move around the board in a variety of ways though.
There are two endings to choose from which as a group you can decide on at the beginning. You may either return to Morse’s office with your theory, at which point all players hand in their notes sheets which are scored (plus points for correct deductions, minus points for incorrect or missing answers) or, return to Morse’s office and see if you are correct. If you have solved the case then the game ends but if you have not then the remaining detectives slog on while you wait in the pub with an increasingly warm real ale for them.
Despite the luck element this is an enjoyable game, especially if you enjoyed the TV series. Relish the opportunity to say ‘Lewis’ in a suitably angry or disparaging tone every time someone else lands on a bad square! Best played in the pub with a real ale – it’s where you do your best thinking after all.
Get Adler
Get Adler is a brilliant, fun game. In the first half the agents are searching for Adler and in the second half Adler tries to escape while the agents try to catch him. Particularly good for larger groups as it plays up to 9 people. Mechanics wise it combines guess who with fast paced strategy!
I have reviewed Get Adler previously – you can read more here.
And I couldn’t write a blog on sleuthing without featuring a Sherlock gif, could I?
Join us for games for a Cards or Die event.
2016-11-11 18.02.56

How I win at Charity Shopping.

I have always enjoyed an amble round the charity shops and since starting Cards or Die, I can amble with renewed purpose. Or ‘pop in – just for a minute’ as I refer to it when trailing a reluctant trio of kids. But in fact, I am not merely aimlessly ambling. It may surprise you to learn that there is a charity shopping strategy. And, no one expects the charity shopping strategy.
(Dramatic entrance, swirling red cloak) The key element in successful charity shopping is luck. Luck is the main element; luck and a fanatical devotion to bargains. OK… the two key elements are luck, a fanatical devotion to bargains and the willingness to take a risk….
(Goes out, bursts in again) The many faceted elements of successful charity shopping are luck, a fanatical devotion to bargains and the willingness to take a risk. So, ok it’s three. But, many faceted elements sounds much more serious. And bargains are a serious business.
It may seem obvious but luck is a two way street. I’ve had some amazing luck at charity shops: ‘Hey! That’s my Fish!’ for 49p; 221B Baker Street – still shrink wrapped £2.99, brand new Bucket of Doom 99p!
I’ve had some bad luck too – for instance Connect 4 (the co-operative version) and Buffy the Board Game – it turns out this was not the Buffy I was looking for.
The thing to take on board though… (I’ll give you a moment to groan if you wish…) The thing to take on board is the number of near misses I’ve had too. I nearly bought Lost the Board Game. It was in a tin for goodness sake. But, I kept my packaging excitement in check and read some reviews on board game geek and averted disaster. I’m aware that the Connect 4 debacle could have been avoided by asking them to snip the tape* so I could look inside.
(*I’ll come back to this)
Despite using the words ‘disaster’ and ‘debacle’, (prone to drama? Moi?) buying these games would leave me just under a fiver out of pocket. It’s easy to change my language and view this as a charitable donation rather than a waste. Plus the Connect 4 will be useful as spares providing people only ever lose yellow counters…
*Taping up board games. Please don’t. I have invested in massive sturdy rubber bands and at Airecon, in possibly the geekiest conversation I had that weekend, I discovered rubber X bands which are super sturdy for your games.
If you want to look inside a box that is taped up – just ask. They will snip it open with scissors and reseal it. That way no-one has to end up with a ripped or damaged box.
Fanatical devotion to bargains
Raised Catholic, fanatical devotion comes easily to me! The more regularly and frequently you can visit charity shops the better. I can efficiently get round all the charity shops here in Horsforth because I know exactly where the board games are in each one. I can go straight to that shelf and check if there are any new additions. It really can be a quick task. Of course often there may be distractions that result in a new outfit which is a bonus!
I usually have a list in mind of which games I’m looking out for. On that list there are specific games and then sections like games from before 1960, for instance. If you are after a particular game or particular style or make of game you can request shops to ring you if that specific thing comes in. Some will be happy to do this for you. On the plus side you don’t have to trawl round as much, on the other hand you may miss a find that isn’t on your hit list. Part of the excitement of charity shop shopping is that you never know what you might discover so it’s important not to be too focussed.
Going in the car to charity shops in odd, tucked away or far flung places can lead to some bargains too. I’ve had some fab bargains from a charity shop on a housing estate in Ellesmere Port whilst visiting my folks. It isn’t really near much else – a newsagents and a chippy and I’ve had some good vintage finds there. Not to mention a dress that was in the sale for 75p!
Anytime we go somewhere new I always want to have a ‘quick look’ in the charity shops. You just never know what you might find. For some reason in different areas you seem to get different types of unwanted games so it’s worth looking in different places if you can. In Wilmslow I got some fabulous condition retro games in a couple of shops.
The saying ‘One person’s junk is another’s treasure’ springs to mind and I am constantly on the lookout for treasure.
Willingness to take a risk.
Throw caution to the wind and splash out on a game you’ve never heard of! The great thing about this is if it’s a dud you can use it as spares or just redonate it, safe in the knowledge that you have made a donation to a worthwhile cause. But if it’s not a dud…
I’ve bought games that are not listed on board game geek and that I’ve never heard of. Or I simply haven’t checked if they are listed – I like the look of them and at these prices it’s a safe risk to take.
I took a risk with this because when I bought it, I didn’t know what it was. I loved the carved wooden box and how tactile it was. I took it up to the counter and said ‘Is this a game?’ ‘Yes’ they said. And I bought it. Then spent a lot of time saying ‘what’s this?’ and brandishing it at people. Eventually somebody said Mancala and all I needed to do then was learn how to play it.
Mancala is an ancient game and so there are many variations. I did some research and fixed on a set of rules that worked. As with all games as long as everyone is in agreement and understands how to win before you start, it should be fine!
This has been such a popular game at all my events. Quick to learn, strategic and mathmatical: it is the kind of game you want to play over and over. It is possible to get modern versions of it and it comes as part of many of the wooden games compendiums. I highly recommend it.
Space Lines
I had never heard of it and it was clearly a 3d version of Connect 4 which could be a but naff. But, interestingly it plays up to 3 and the picture on the box! Well, that’s what sold it to me. The 3D game of the future, a brave new world where people would shoot coloured lasers out of their fingers. This was the kind of world I wanted a piece of. Once I had got over the disappointment of the lack of finger lasers, I realised that this is actually a really neat game.
Played two player, it is harder than you think to pursue your own series of 4 pegs whilst blocking your opponent. But when three play it becomes very interesting. There is potential for pairing up against one opponent or seeming to and then switching loyalties.Martin at The Abbey has introduced a no talking rule for the three player game which is an excellent idea as it intensifies the dynamics of the game.
Again this is a game with a very simple premise: make a row of four pegs in any direction. Each time you get caught out, you’ll want to play again. The 3D, 3 player element means there are multiple strategies to try out.
A two player strategy game. This time it wasn’t the box itself that encouraged me to buy it, but its award winning status and the tactile nature of the pieces. One player is red, the other black; using your tiles you must make your way across the board from one side to another whilst blocking your opponent’s bid to do the same. This is a gem of a strategy game and I can see why it won the Toy of The Year Award 1974.
In this instance the box itself nearly stopped me buying this one. It was on a shelf with napkin rings (also in boxes) and display plates. So, when I picked up the box I wasn’t sure what to expect. Whoever thought ‘Burgundy and gold, that says fun’? Carefully prising it open I found the instructions which explained that it was a game where you match the colours and try to make a long chain of the same colour, scoring for each square in the chain. To be honest, it sounded a bit dull but it was under a pound and I thought someone might like it. I was both wrong and right! It isn’t at all dull and lots of people like it! In fact it has been re-issued in a nicer box and is well worth trying out. If you like Tantrix (another charity bargain) you’ll like this. It’s pleasing to the eye and mildly strategic. There’s something very satisfying about totting up your ever increasing score as you create longer and longer colour chains.
If, like me you are addicted to charity shops and the board game bargains to be sought out, you may also enjoy Board Game Trading and Chat UK. As I was typing this blog, someone had shared a post – they bought Ticket to Ride for £3.50 and Disc World for £4.25. 154 people reacted to this post so it definitely isn’t just me that enjoys a bargain – vicarious or otherwise!
What are your greatest charity shop finds? Or your most entertaining duds?

Come and check out some of my bargainous finds at a Cards or Die event.

Once upon a time in the West it wasn’t all Doom and Gloom: the beauty of Storytelling Games.

Storytelling is an ageless activity bred of an instinctive human desire to connect with others. Back when we lived in caves and all you needed to do to impress someone was light a fire, we would sit round that fire and tell stories: stories of the mythic beasts we had slain; cautionary stories of the dangers our youngsters should avoid; stories of comical mishaps and misunderstandings. Playing games is an ancient pastime, and it’s no coincidence that games is another great way to connect with other humans. So, what could be better at connecting us than games that tell stories?
Here are some of our favourite story telling style games:
Players use the letters that are revealed to create sentences. Each sentence must use all of the letters in order reading left to right or right to left. You place 7 letter cards and a category card face up to create the board. The category card awards different points depending on the subject of the sentence. Turn over the 3 minute timer and off you go! You need to make sure that the sentence is grammatically accurate and you can use names but not just to use up letters – they need to be an integral part of the sentence. Write as many sentences in the time to maximise your score. The rules claim that the game is outlandish and creative, and the results certainly lend credence to this claim!
A variation allows you to place 10 letters and choose a sequence of those to make your sentence. In this version you score according to the length of your sentence.
The game is played over 5 rounds, so you’ve got time to warm up!
This is a quick, fun party game. It is challenging but it’s the kind of game that once you warm your brain up, you can create all sorts of bizarre and entertaining stories! Have a go at the boards in the pictures to get you started!
Bucket Of Doom
Another classic party game. I was wary of this one at first as it says it’s suitable for ages 17+… some people had seen it in my collection and said the thought it would be like Cards Against Humanity – this didn’t help! 9as you may know, I am not a fan of Cards Against Humanity at all. I’ve played it and I felt that some of the topics were so tasteless that I could not find any humour in them). But, I found a copy of this in a charity shop and it is by Big Potato Games (Creators of Obama Llama which is well loved here at Cards or Die headquarters) so, the conditions were perfect for me to throw caution to the wind and suspend my reservations. And, I’m glad I did.
You have 8 objects and an improbable yet perilous scenario. The scenarios are mainly ridiculous, some are rude and many are nightmarish but they are not offensive. You must use one of your 8 objects to escape the scenario you find yourself in. The group choose the most convincing and entertaining explanation and we have a winner/ survivor. Above all else this game is ridiculous. It demands that you engage your imagination and reach into its farthest recesses to generate plausible absurdity.
So, how will your Bachelor’s in drama get you out of this suicidal whale?
Serving suggestion: definitely the sort of game which is best served with fizzy wine or fine ales.
In Dixit the player who decides on the phrase, word or saying that encapsulates their card is referred to as the storyteller. Each image tells its own story. I have already written a detailed review of Dixit -you can read more here.
I love Gloom; both the game and the Eeyore-like state of being. We have the Cthulhu version. Despite the tuck box (we won’t talk about that it upsets me), this is a brilliant game. The aim of the game is to make your family as miserable as possible before killing them all!
The cards are see-through so that you can stack them up, obscuring or replacing some or all of the existing scores and categories. Event cards intensify the gloom of your family and outline a mishap or terrible event: ‘disappeared in the night’ or ‘was part of a feast’ for example. As these stack up you tell the horrifying story of that character. Storytelling is outlined in the rules as ‘half the fun’: you are encouraged to flesh out (if you will) how these chilling events came to pass. It’s definitely more entertaining if you engage your storytelling brain as well as your maths/ strategic one. This goes some way to settling the ‘Is Maths better than English?’ debate. Or perhaps they work in beautiful harmony? Nonsense, English makes everything better. (This is the answer, no need to comment below).
Whilst trying to make your family as miserable as possible you can cheer up your opponent’s with bargainous books or secured tenures. When you have enough negative points you can cause the untimely death of your family member or as a philanthropic gesture you can limit the unhappiness of an opponent’s family member by putting them out of their misery – literally.
When your entire family have gone to a better place (which given the circumstances wouldn’t take much) then the game ends and you total up the points to see who has spread the most gloom. Fabulously gruesome!
Colt Express
In Colt Express you are all ruthless bandits in the Wild West trying to grab the most loot and prove yourself as the fastest gunslinger. The marshall guards the prize on the train – a briefcase full of money. But watch out, get shot by the said marshall and that really messes up your plans.
One of the immediately impressive and striking things about Colt Express is that it uses a cardboard train rather than a board. It truly is a thing of beauty. You make your way along the train either clinging to the roof or risking life and limb as you swing from carriage to carriage.
Disappointingly the number of female characters is limited to the usual two and one of them is predictably busty. As with so many games I overlook that. If I only bought games which fairly represent the diversity of society my shelves would be significantly emptier.
Colt Express uses a programming mechanic. A round comprises 4 to 6 actions per player and this is detailed on the round outline card. Some of the outline cards dictate that certain cards are placed secretly and some end with an action like the train screeching to a halt – when the outlaws who have chosen to risk the high winds and jolting tracks by creeping along the roof are jettisoned dangerously closer to the marshall.
Each player chooses the action they plan to execute and places their card in the pile. When this is completed, one player then tells the story of the round. This mechanic makes the game quite tricky; to play effectively you need to not only keep track (no pun intended!) of what you’re planning but of what everyone else is doing and where they are, adjusting your plans accordingly.
The storytelling element and the cardboard train are my favourite bits of this game. (It even comes with cardboard cacti!) For me the game is perfect when people enter into the storytelling element of it with enthusiasm. A list of actions becomes a scene from a Wild West train robbery with a cast of rival guns prepared to fight to the death.
Each player has a special ability which lends some more depth to the game and there are two expansion packs available which I’m keen to try out.
Everybody needs good neighbours and you can join forces with yours in The Neighbours board game to create the best plotline ever. I have thoroughly enjoyed playing this game and it’s had good reviews from events too. Now – whenever I read the word “hilarious” in a review part of my soul dies, but honestly Neighbours is hilarious to play (admittedly we consumed wine while we played – a theme is emerging), but it is a fun game – and the plot lines you create have to be grammatically accurate, which pleases me more than I can tell you. Pretend it’s the 80s, pretend it’s sunny, and dive right in!
So what is the story we should take away from this post? Well, once upon a time there was a little girl who eschewed the rules of grammar. She thought that what really mattered was the story, not the way it was written. She was wrong. She lost. Grammar matters kids.
As a poster in my classroom stated:
“Let’s eat Grandma! or, Let’s eat, Grandma!”
It takes a lot more than lighting a fire in a cave to impress people these days… get this wrong and you could have been having quite a chewy dinner…
Join us for board games at a Cards or Die event.

Games for Weddings

5 reasons why if you treat yourself to one extra ‘thing’ at your wedding, it’s got to be board games.
1. Memories are made of this.
What do you want people to remember from your wedding? You want them to remember what a fun day it was, the people they met and spent time with, how special that shared time with you and your family was. Games are fun; games bring people together: that’s the whole point. For many families Christmas is the only time they get the board games out. Why? Because we associate board games with fun, with family, with quality time and memories. I’m not suggesting that I bring Risk or Escape From Colditz and we all settle down for a six hour intensive, strategic battle (well, not this time!). I’m promising to bring the sort of games that you remember from your childhood, fun games that you will want to share. The sort of games that make you name 7 things beginning with ‘F’ before the timer runs out, without offending Grandma or teaching the children any new words.
2. Kids have to sit still to play games and they will.
At various points you will want the children to sit still for a while, to have some calm time. Playing a game with children is a great way to grab a bit of family time; it can be a long tiring day for the little ones. Just as with the books, our favourite games are those that both adults and children can enjoy. The best bit is – once you’ve played them through a few times – they’ll play happily on their own and you can move on to a more complex game or simply go back to your wine! Poo, Dobble, Exploding Kittens and Don’t Panic are quick to learn and fun to play.
3. 4 Hours in and you’ve run out of things to say to Great Uncle Jeff.
Never fear, once you’ve got him engrossed in Mancala you’ll be discussing tactics and strategy. Or, we can crack out Downfall or Guess Who and he’ll soon be regaling you and anyone in earshot with comical (and probably embarrassing) memories from your childhood. This is a great way of sparking conversation or providing a focus, and equally true of tables where everyone knows each other or where strangers are sitting together. Get people playing and they aren’t strangers for long.

4. The Twilight Zone

Apart from the temporary distraction of the photographs, the time between the wedding and the evening reception can feel a little flat. Providing a carefully chosen selection of games gives guests something fun to occupy their time. Games like Anomia, 5 Second Rule or Jenga are all good group games that people can dip in and out of when it’s their photo call. The fact that people can swap in and out of the games also encourages people to mix and get together.

5. Games that are funny are HILARIOUS when you’ve had a glass (or two) of fizz.

Any game that requires dexterity or quick fire answers is entertaining as it is but, add a couple of glasses of fizz and the level of challenge intensifies; you find yourself crying with laughter as the first celebrity that your friend names is Michael Fish! You struggle to regain your composure as the timer ticks down and you wrack your brains for a type of insect. An insect. Any insect. Come on, you know that a hamster is not an insect and yet your brain only has this to offer! Or, you can try to steady your hand as you perch a chair on top of another precarious chair. (Frowning and holding your breath helps with this!). People laughing at your “concentration” face does not help. Then as the chairs come crashing down, the people on the next table see you all laughing and shout over ‘Can we have that next?’ Suddenly there you are with people mixing and having fun. Just what you said you wanted at the start.

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Cards or Die is all about board gaming fun and creating great memories. Get in touch to chat to us about which games would suit your wedding.
You can always pop along to a Cards or Die event and see what it’s all about.
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Wondering what to buy the little legs in your life this Christmas? Games of course!

Friends have been asking me ‘What games should I get my kids this Christmas?’ I know that the subtext here is a. what will keep my darlings gainfully occupied? b. what will I enjoy if I decide to play too? and c. what doesn’t require 2 hours of rule reading and painful adjudication?
Luckily for you, I’ve got the answer. In fact, 5 answers because that’s the sort of friend I am! The games I’ve chosen are quick to learn, will be out of the box more than they’re in it and are also portable, so you can take them to family get-togethers and all play or leave the kids to it. And once they’re safely tucked up in bed, regardless of how much festive spirit you imbibe you’ll be able to settle down to a sensible, grown up game of Poo.
My years as a teacher mean that I can not share these recommendations without going all geeky about the many benefits of learning through play: accidental learning is my favourite. Not only are games an excellent social tool, reinforcing ideas about turn taking, communicating your own ideas and listening to others, but also the games I’ve chosen encourage children to observe, match patterns and images, count and keep score and some games require quick thinking while some require reflective strategy (on as simple a level as you want). Basically what I’m saying is you can drink wine, knock stuff over, fling poo and send your darlings back to school/ nursery with a smug smile: they are so advanced.
So here are my top 5 Christmas Gifts for children…
1. Poo
2-8 players
5-15 minutes
Poo is a card game in which monkeys fling poo at each other and attempt to deflect poo on to others or clean some poo off themselves. Once you have been covered in a pile of 15 flying poos you are out and the last monkey standing wins.
Poo is an easy game. Start with 5 cards, play one, pick one up. The only age restriction is that there is simple reading to be done but this can be worked around by working in mixed age teams. Or, you could just be able to see a younger players cards – there is no strategy in this one so it doesn’t really matter if you know what someone has in their hand.
You may also want to buy some counters to keep track of scores – I got brown ones of course!
There is a Space version available too – it is currently in stock at your friendly local games shop: http://www.gamescrusade.co.uk/
Here is some regular, non-space poo:
For first Wednesday games at The Abbey Inn, I treated us to some poo related prizes. This was a cheap party bag but worth adding to the game for a bit of extra fun:
2. Kodama
2-5 players
40 minutes
This is a game which has a very simple premise and involves some strategy. No reading skills are required as you are matching images. It is, though, a very beautifully designed and illustrated game. In our house ages 9 to 71 have thoroughly enjoyed it but it is certainly suitable for younger (or older) ones too!
At the start of the game you choose a tree spirit, and then you grow your tree by adding branch cards that you choose. You score points for making a contiguous line of a certain feature over a number of adjoining cards. E.g. if you add fireflies to this starting trunk you score 1 point for each firefly on an adjoining branch.
There are also season cards which set challenges; if you achieve the challenges then you score bonus points. For very small children it is easy to leave these out for the first couple of rounds and add them in later.
The finished trees after one of our games.
The only possible down side is that your child may demand a tree spirit as their next pet. I know I have.
3. Click Clack Lumberjack
Plays 2-7
5-10 minutes
Like Jenga – but there’s an axe. Try to knock off the bark without knocking down the tree. To play this children will need some dexterity and it involves turn taking. But, again – no reading. You can encourage them to keep track of their own score of +2 for every piece of bark knocked off, -5 for every section of trunk, and optional bonus points if they knock off the bark which hides the bug stickers.
4. Carcassonne
Plays 2-5
30-45 minutes
There is a junior version of Carcassonne but to be honest I am not a great fan of games adapted for children, I’d rather differentiate myself. That way when they are older you’ve still got the game. A much thriftier investment!
Carcassonne is an incredibly popular and award winning game. It involves no reading, and there are lots of ways of reducing or increasing the strategy involved.
You lay tiles to create a landscape based on the medieval fortified town of Carcassonne. You need to match the tiles so that roads, fields, Abbeys or cities can be completed or added to. The way I’ve explained it to children is that the picture must ‘make sense’. Once you have laid a tile you can claim that territory by placing a meeple on it. Depending on where you place your meeple it can become a Knight (which may or may not say ‘Ni’), a farmer, a highwayman or a monk. Your meeple then earns points depending on the length of the road, or the size of the city, farm or Abbey. Players must play tiles carefully to maximise their score.
o help very small children to learn I would remove farmers and monks. Once they have mastered the basic principle of the game they can be re-introduced. Children are learning to create sequences and patterns as well as calculating and comparing possible scores. Again, they can do as much or as little of this as you want. This is definitely a good investment.
The box is not as portable as it is a little larger than the other 4 games it won’t go in a handbag, unlike poo!
5. Dobble
2-8 players
5 minutes
Dobble is a quick, fun and portable game. The tin of cards contains rules for 5 mini games. Turn over a card and if you are first to shout out the image which matches an image on your card you win the card. The person with the most cards wins. While the game is clearly the work of a mathematical genius – every single card has one image which matches with an image on another card – you don’t need to be a genius to play.

This game tests observational skills and encourages quick thinking and unlike snap, rather than testing the speed of your movement it requires you to verbalise your answer quickly.




It has been so successful that there are many variations available including a Star Wars version!

There are so many good games out there and this is just 5 that are a sure fire hit for any age. If you want any other, more specific recommendations or you want to share your family favourites please get in touch!

Come along to a Cards or Die event and play these and more.
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Can Sub Terra adequately prepare you for the apocalypse?

There are three things which I feel summarise my excitement about Sub Terra which was recently brought to life through KickStarter:
1. After two play throughs I ordered ultra violet lights.
2. After the first game I’ve had requests that next games night we build a blanket fort in The Abbey Inn and play in there with the new lights and the soundtrack (Another stretch goal that was unlocked.)
3. I keep making people feel the cards and tiles. (2mm punch board, black core boards and matt finish, black core card; all bonus stretch goal features which make this game a delight to hold). You think I’m weird. I’m not weird. Once you’ve stroked the cards you’ll see that this is a normal reaction.
Such is the excitement and joy Sub Terra generates. I could leave it at that really; it tells you everything you need to know. But why use 240 characters when 8 pages will do?
You are trapped in an underground network of caves and tunnels. You must work together to find the exit and escape before your torch lights run out or the horrors get you. There are other threats too: cave ins, gas leaks, floods and the dodgy background of one of your fellow cavers. One of the pure joys of this game for me is the fact that the cavers are a diverse mix of race and gender. Finally, a games designer who has got it so right. So right that when I play with my family, I don’t have to be a boy character because all the girls have gone. And, in the immortal words of Lotto from 8 mile “This shit is a horror flick, but the black guy doesn’t die in this movie …” Now Louis may die but as the medic it’s very, very unlikely.
You can outrun the horrors – a pack of vague, shadowy figures who pursue you through the darkness. Hiding from the horrors is another option but it takes up precious time. There is no place for cowardice, as to me this is the equivalent of hiding in a wardrobe: if they don’t spot you, you are still trapped, you still have to get past them and get out. Also you’ve been holding your breath because it was really loud and now you have a headache.
But don’t worry, there’s always Jai – our dodgy but hench bodyguard – who can fight them off. The interplay of characters special abilities is finely balanced which makes it all the more important that you DON’T SPLIT UP!
This, my friends is a horror film basic. Our complete disregard for this on our first game made me question the years spent watching horror films in the firm belief that I will be ready if/ when the apocalypse comes. I had plenty of time for contemplation while I lay drifting in and out of consciousness for hours, surrounded by the scratching, scurrying sounds of the horrors.
Your turn has two or three phases. On your turn you can choose between exploring – where you reveal and leap into the next section of cave with reckless abandon – or just revealing which allows you to peak cautiously into the next chamber, perhaps using a mirror so the horrors don’t see you. Being over cautious means you won’t find the exit in time but be too daring and you find yourself gasping for breath in a gas leak or plunged into icy waters where you must drift unconscious until the medic arrives. Provided the medic hasn’t chosen this moment to get a round in.
We found that exploring on our first phase and revealing in the second worked best as on our second phase sometimes we could mitigate the effects of our earlier recklessness, but ultimately to escape you must take risks.
The optional third phase of your go is exertion. Of course, in these dangerous surroundings, it can exhaust you, draining your health. Or, you can be lucky and exert yourself with no ill effects. Just as in life, fate is capricious and is decided on the throw of a die.
The caverns and tracks you reveal have challenges like ledges, slides and rough terrain as well as the more obvious dangers noted above.
So, what have we learnt:
1. Don’t split up
2. Use your strength wisely
3. Hiding is futile
4. Be friends with the medic
5. Be lucky.
It is a challenging game, which if played well (by which I mean in a blanket fort with UV lights and the sound track on) definitely might completely partially equip you with the skills you need to survive the apocalypse.
Come along and have a game at a Cards or Die event.
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Ready for something a little more piratey? Tortuga 1667.

Ahoy Landlubbers, settle ye down while I tell ye about Tortugaaarrrhhh. What better day be there for reviewing a pirate game. Why? It’s only talk like a pirate day! Arrrhh-where’s me rum?
Don’t worry I’m packing it in now. There will be no more pirate talk. (Well, maybe a bit).
It would be criminal if I did not start with the box. To say it is beautifully presented sells it short. The box is a fake antique book with a distressed leather bound look. Inside there is more than adequate room for the gorgeous play mat, pieces and cards. It couldn’t be any more beautiful. It even closes with a satisfyingly secure thunk. No elastic bands holding this lid on!
Another lovely feature of the game is how well it adheres to the theme. The cards are well designed and beautifully illustrated but just as important is the text: clear instructions with appropriate vocabulary – cards like Cabin Fever, Crow’s Nest all add to the atmosphere of the game which at the end of the day is quite piratey!
All ‘brethren of the coast’ (character) cards are based on real pirates which is interesting to read about in the Instruction Booklet. But… once again I find myself faced with two token girl characters. Small mercies – they aren’t busty or simpering. But two?? There are 5 people in my household – 3 girls, 2 boys. To play this game as with so many others one of us will have to be a boy. Maybe it’s deliberate, some sort of cynical preparation for girls, readying them for a future where what’s in the front of your pants decides how much you earn. But more likely it’s just thoughtless, a kind of casual acceptance of everyday sexism. But, as with so many other games we move on from that and enjoy the game.
Roight then landlubbers enough of all this parlez. Let’s gerron with the game…
The object of the game is to grab (and keep the other team’s mucky paws off) the treasure. One of the first nice twists is that everyone has loyalty; either French, British or in a nine player game – Dutch. But this loyalty is hidden from all other players. Even your crewmates.
In fact there are lots of murky depths* to this game. There are a good variety of actions available to you each turn. You can view events, reveal and resolve events or having viewed events on a previous turn force another player to resolve an event. All complicated by the fact that you want the most treasure for your team but who is really on your side? Loyalties are only revealed once the game is over.
*I only said I would try not to be piratey. No-one said anything about crap puns.
Amongst the actions you might catch scurvy and miss a turn, be marooned or maroon other players or blow up a rowing boat (there are only 2!). The roles of Captain, First Mate and Cabin Boy are all up for grabs and can be gained through mutiny or action cards.
Vote cards allow players to support an attack, brawl or mutiny. Vote cards can be used judiciously to further your strategy but strategies can be scuppered by backing the wrong crewmate: tricksy.
When the Spanish Armada arrives the game ends and the team with the most booty wins.
The Facts:
20-40 minutes
2-9 players (we played one 2 player game but it is much better with more players.)
Age: 13+ (It is a reasonably complex game but I’m sure as with all games, familiarity makes it more accessible. I like the fact that you can look through the discard pile. The instructions explicitly state that this is not a memory game which is refreshing to read.)
Albatross. Bloody albatross.
Come along and try it at a Cards or Die event.
If you’re looking for some background music for your seafaring games you should check out She Shanties – a fabulous rousing shanty crew.
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Mr Jack (Pocket)- where is Irene Adler?

Ahhh, pressing bits of cardboard out of other bits of cardboard- bliss.
Two weeks ago I stumbled across Mr Jack (Pocket) in Just Games – the games shop in Whitby. (Click on the picture above to visit their excellent website.)
As we love 221B Baker Street and Cluedo in our house, it seemed like a good choice. The portable size and the price appealed too.
Mentioning it on twitter, I found that it is already a favourite of lots of gamers and having played it countless times in the scant two weeks we’ve had it, I can see why.
The Facts
Players: 2 – Mr Jack and The Inspector
Time: 15mins
Age: 14+
Difficulty: D20
While it is easy to learn the basics and easily accessible, you can also play with a lot of strategy. We started off playing in a very straightforward way and soon realised that you can play at a much deeper, more strategic level. Much of this lies in the cleverness of the asymmetry: Mr Jack must avoid detection while The Inspector must discover Mr Jack’s assumed identity before time runs out. The Inspector moves the character tokens around the edge of the board, looking down the alleys for Mr Jack. Meanwhile, Mr Jack must try to either block or maximise their view to stop the Inspector deducing Mr Jack’s identity. The game is well balanced; neither character has any advantage over the other.
Mark considering the strategic brilliance of Mr Jack (Me!).
The Inspector is aided by Holmes, Watson and Toby the dog- their sometime accomplice. The use of Toby may please some Holmes purists- I know I saw it as a welcome addition.
Despite my disappointment once again at the under (and mis-) representation of women in the game. (And I do mean despite – I was disappointed when I opened it) I do really enjoy the game. Every other element is well considered: the design of the alleyways and blocked routes on individual tiles giving the board endless* variance; the seeming imbalance in turn taking which resolves over two turns; the double sided counters which indicate elements of your turn and the double sided turn tracker which shows hourglasses on the flipside which both Mr Jack and the Inspector are locked in battle for. All in all it is a strategic dream and delightfully compact.
*ok. I know there’s some mathematical formula and I could calculate the number of possible variants. I could but I won’t insult your intelligence by doing that for you. I mean I totally could if I wanted. Just so we’re clear.
Perfect to play while you await your tapas (and chips!)
This, however, is not a welcome sight. At all.
The aliases Mr Jack assumes are very disappointing. It does not interfere with game play but once again I am presented with manly white men in manly poses and two simpering women who seem to have only breasts and prostitution to offer. Not only is the characterisation of the women tiresome but also why aren’t half the characters female? And why is everyone white? Add to that a rule book that speaks solely to men. Extremely frustrating and so easily remedied.
So easy, in fact, I can remedy it for you with some quick googling.
Here are some possible additions to begin to redress the white male bias – click on the images to find out more:
Mary Ann – a notorious murderer. It is believed she murdered 11 children, 3 husbands and her mother among others.

Thomas Jenkins, a ship’s cook, was arrested for refusing to give evidence.

Irene Adler
And of course – why on earth would you not have included Irene Adler? She was the only person who Holmes viewed as an intellectual equal – who else could be more likely to give the Inspector, Holmes, Toby and Watson a good run for their money?
“… the best plans of Mr Sherlock Holmes were beaten by a woman’s wit.” A.C. Doyle
Maybe this is all the world is waiting for… the right expansion pack.
Come along to a Cards or Die event and try it out for yourself.

That Anxiety Business. Again.

For a long time I adopted the ‘fake it till you make it’ approach to aspects of my mental health. It’s by no means a foolproof solution but it has got me through some difficult moments. It has allowed me to seem more confident than I often am and that in itself can make it easier to succeed. It definitely helps that I believe in Cards or Die passionately. I can look at any event and genuinely think ‘You know what would make this better? Board games. Lots of them.’
My most recent anxiety has centred around striking a balance between following up leads and pestering people. I look back on my first round of making contact with potential customers and feel that it was easy, nothing to worry about. Yet, when I give it proper consideration, I know that before I made those contacts I was just as anxious.
I find I am locked in a battle with myself. Again. I ought to know from my previous experience that people aren’t that scary. But it’s easy to forget that when you’re about to start pestering them to pay you to do a thing that they may never have realised they needed! And even easier when the anxiety in your brain is greedily licking its tentacles and waiting to ensnare you.
For some these sorts of worries can be countered by a simple internal dialogue:
You: What’s the worst that could happen?
Also you: They say no.
You: There, that’s no big deal is it?
But with my anxiety these internal dialogues often play out very differently.
Me: What’s the worst that could happen?
Me: They say no.
Me: There, that’s…
Me: (interrupting) and then they get angry and yell at me about wasting their time and how it’s a ridiculous idea that will never work
Me: But…
Me: And then they pick up the nearest blunt object and I try to run but the door’s locked…
And so it goes on. You get the picture. I’m mental. And not always in a fun way.
In the end I have risked the wrath of potential customers. Some people said yes, some said no, no-one attacked me with a blunt object for daring to ask them if they’d like to book me to run board games at their event. Even the ‘no’s have been pleasant encounters – some of them thank me for approaching them, lots of people have wished me luck and said what a great idea it is.
So, having fought and maimed this air drawn demon, I then had to face the horror that is follow up contact. As I’ve said past experience alone isn’t enough to placate this creature. It is concerned only with reinforcing negatives and doesn’t allow me to celebrate success for long. But, I drew myself up to my full height and readied myself for battle once more. And, guess what? It turns out that if people have already expressed an interest in booking you they don’t mind you getting in touch. Some of them even thank you- because people are busy and they sometimes just genuinely forget. Hopefully by recording this, in some way I can encourage my brain to remember this for the next phase.
I am adept at finding things to worry about and embarking on a new business has given ‘it’ plenty of opportunities to surface. It can be exhausting. But, at the moment I am at a really good positive point. I have contacted strangers, chased them up and they’ve booked me!
Why am I sharing this with you? Because if, like me, you’re a bit loopy then next time your brain helpfully kick starts a plethora of worst case scenarios which usually end in a world where cockroaches are the master race, you’ve just got a bit more ammo. You can tell it ‘Hang on- that crazy board games nerd managed it. So can I.’
And if this struggle is not something you regularly endure, then I’m glad. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed reading a little tale of moderate success in a big, scary world.